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Summary:

The traditional office space is in the midst of its most dramatic shift since it was rocked by the creation of
the cubicle more than 40 years ago. These new workspaces create fresh challenges for IT departments and technological demands from today’s workforce.

office

The traditional office space is in the midst of its most dramatic shift since it was rocked by the creation of the cubicle more than 40 years ago. Driven by new communication technologies, the globalization of supply chains and an increased emphasis on real estate cost reduction, we’ve seen a massive change in the way people work. The “New Office” is an airport lounge on a tablet, a midnight video call on the kitchen counter, a shared table at the office or a collaboration pod for ad hoc meetings. These new workspaces create fresh
challenges for IT departments and technological demands from today’s workforce – from new productivity tools to broader communication and collaboration solutions.

In the last 10 years, we’ve seen a significant reduction in the average office space per employee. In 1995, it was approximately 300 square feet; today it is 225 square feet or less. This workspace shrinkage is due to various work style trends, including companies leveraging hot desking, where an employee temporarily occupies a workspace outfitted to meet their needs, hotelling,reservation-based hot desking, and incentive programs for employees who work from home.

These space-focused work trends create new pain points for employees, ranging from a need for tools that increase privacy (such as headsets, individual phone booths, etc.) to self-sufficiency and collaboration solutions. As a result, the IT industry is now focused on implementing radically simple and easy-to-use solutions, requiring no IT support, so employees can focus on communicating and collaborating. I was particularly intrigued by Tim Campos’ decision at Facebook to use vending machines to dispense items like keyboards, headphones and power sources to employees – part of what he calls “frictionless IT.”

Piggybacking the evolving office space is the gradual increase of space allocated to team collaboration — currently, it’s close to 30 percent of the average office space. It used to be that meetings were relegated
to a few dedicated rooms and water cooler discussions literally happened around the water cooler. Today, the physical space is adapting to the way teams work – ad hoc, on a project basis, cross-functional, with team members scattered around the world. We’re witnessing a fragmentation of collaboration spaces. Now there
are larger amounts of smaller spaces for employees – rooms that typically hold about four people – equipped with video conferencing systems that are smaller, cheaper, self-installed and easy-to-use.

Driven by the need to replace more antiquated pieces of IT equipment and the availability/growth of unified communications (UC) solutions, we’re seeing a union of computing and communication tools at the desk and in new collaboration spaces. UC simplifies how employees work together, regardless of whether or
not they’re in the office. However, questions are rising around what device will become the catch-all communication and productivity solution: the PC, a tablet dock, a UC phone or perhaps a smartphone.

This is certainly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to next-generation collaboration products and the evolution of the new office. Video conferencing addresses the need for structured meetings, but new tools will emerge to address the need for unstructured collaboration – from interactive connected smart boards to tablet whiteboard applications.

My guess: this is just the beginning. The personal space will continue to shrink and become increasingly mobile/virtual. We’ll likely see a day where the office becomes a series of collaboration spaces, designed to connect fragmented virtual teams. Until then, we’ll continue to witness the development of new
technologies and services designed to address the changing office. New players and industry stalwarts alike will start to develop products and solutions that make the new office a reality.

Eric Kintz is Vice President and General Manager of Logitech for Business, Logitech’s newly-created division focused on business productivity and unified communications solutions. Follow him on Twitter: @EricKintz.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Campaign Monitor

  1. The Resource Suites Hybrid Officing-the future of officing today. Part virtual, part physical, all business. Our platform is the first true unified communications And messaging product. From snail mail, to voicemail, to email, all with no latency.

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  2. This is a great article, especially because ten years ago Guy Kawasaki gave a speech to students at the University of Hawaii with some home town Honolulu “tough love” and among the things he talked about he proclaimed that the water cooler in the centralized office is still important (and hence why Silicon Valley was like the center of the world and why, in his view, people in Hawaii didn’t really have a chance at doing well with a startup which was utterly bogus then and its even more bogus now)!

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  3. Most of this comes from the smart phone. You couldn’t really do anything on the go before Blackberry came alond and then it is already been made look outdated by iPhone and Android. Amazing to think that you can pretty much carry out your full working day on such a small device!

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    1. @Niall – very true. It’s a combination of IP communications allowing you to stay connected everywhere and mobile devices.

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  4. Based on Logitech acquired companies in last 3 years, LifeSize , SightSpeed, Paradial & Mirial in 2011
    Deals/Partnerships
    -Skype
    -LG
    -Microsoft Lync Server, Microsoft Office 365
    -Alcatel-Lucent,
    -Avaya,
    -Logitech Teams Up with GN Netcom with co-branded “Logitech powered
    by Jabra”
    -Virtulization & Cloud compatibility

    Add to it Logitech leadership in the consumer video chat accessories like HD web cams with the mega potential of the new Facebook/Skype & Google+ Hangout

    I think Logitech on right track as a growth global company

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  5. I remember that ten years ago, working in pajamas was just a dream. But now, work isn’t defined by time, place ( and even the clothes you wear ); it’s all about utilizing the best tools around so you can become the most productive you can be.

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  6. Andrew Macadam Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Appreciate that this is about technology, but I think that there has to be recognition that this is also about the changing mentality in business as well. It is no longer all about “face time” (and I refer to the original meaning of the expression…not Apple’s derivative), whereby there was pressure on people to be seen.
    I think a significant change in a large number of organisations now is about the quality of work produced, as opposed to how much time is spent in front of people.
    I should caveat this though in that there is still a LONG way to go before this is ubiquitous in all industries. We are seeing it in the high tech, early adoption industries, but there is something innate within us that needs that physical interaction and this need is only partially fulfilled through current technology.

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    1. Technology and mentality changes go hand in hand. Technology has enabled the globalization of supply chains, which in turn has made the teams more virtual and therefore the lack of face to face interaction more commonly accepted.

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  7. Josh Campbell Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Great article. Companies are constantly looking at ways to reduce costs. Real Estate is typically the second largest expense for an organization behind personnel. So it makes sense that we’re seeing these organizations try to reduce real estate and make the real estate they have more efficient. They do this by making some of the changes you’ve mentioned above, but it’s extremely important to make these changes and adjustments based on real data. Through practices like occupancy detection and building management systems, real estate business intelligence software can take data and help organizations make these tough decisions about how to use and where to reduce their real estate much easier.

    PeopleCube has full real estate management solutions that allow you to collect data from multiple building systems.

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